The day before a typically lethal night of drunken driving, Gov. George E. Pataki signed a law decreasing the legal blood-alcohol limit by one-fifth, to 0.08 percent.
The law will go into effect March 1, 2003. New York will become the 32nd state to lower the limit to 0.08. The average 160-pound man would have to drink four drinks in one hour to meet that level; a 120-pound woman, three drinks.
The current limit, 0.10 percent, was set in the early 1970s. New York’s state police have estimated that the decrease in the limit could save 40 lives a year.